Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in Senate testimony Tuesday, said he does not recall having had a third meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during last year's presidential campaign.
Though Sessions has disclosed two other meetings, he was pressed on a possible third meeting at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in April 2016. Sessions and staff were there for a speech by then-candidate Donald Trump along with Russian officials, but Sessions testified Tuesday that he “did not have any private meetings” at the Mayflower Hotel.
“I would have gladly reported the encounter that some say occurred in the Mayflower, if I remembered it, or if it actually occurred, which I don’t remember that it did,” Sessions said in response to questions from intelligence committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C.
Sessions told the panel that he did not have any conversations or private meetings, and that the extent of his privacy was the “reception area that was shut off from the main crowd with two to three dozen people.”
Burr asked if he attended the event as a “surrogate” of the Trump campaign or a “senator.”
“I came there as an interested person very anxious to see how President Trump would do in his first major foreign policy address,” Sessions said. “That was my main purpose of being there.”
Sessions told lawmakers that he attended the event with his then-legislative director who was with him at the reception.
Sessions acknowledged his two other meetings with Kislyak—one on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio in July 2016, and one in his Senate office in September. He did not initially disclose them in his confirmation hearing, but defended that omission as an honest lapse on Tuesday.
“Mr. Chairman I’ve racked my brain to answer those questions correctly, and I did not, I would just offer for you, that when asked about whether I had any meetings with Russians by a reporter in March, we immediately recalled the conversation encounter I had at the convention and in the meeting in my office,” Sessions said. “I never intended not to include that.”
When pressed again on the possibility of a meeting at the Mayflower Hotel by committee Ranking Member Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., Sessions said he did not recall any meeting but that if one had occurred, it was “nothing improper.”
Sessions later said he could not say with certainty that he did not have an encounter with Kislyak.
Sessions gave an opening statement denying any and all collusion with the Russians and called the allegations a lie.
“I have never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign in the United States,” Sessions said. “The suggestion that I participated in any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion, of the Russian government to hurt this country which I have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie.”